Engaging African American Males in Community College

reviewed by Charles H. F. Davis - July 18, 2019

coverTitle: Engaging African American Males in Community College
Author(s): Ted N. Ingram & James Coaxum, III (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1641132280, Pages: 252, Year: 2018
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Engaging African American Males in Community College, edited by Ted N. Ingram and James Coaxum III, engages the educational possibilities community colleges offer to Black male collegians. As the editors affirm in the preface, this is an important area in which to further focus the study of Black collegiate life due to community colleges serving as the primary entry point for Black male undergraduates into higher and postsecondary education. Additionally, graduate-level programs in education counseling, student affairs, and educational leadership are continuing to expand their focus on preparing community college leaders and scholars. However, the extant research on Black college students generally and Black male undergraduates specifically has been primarily conducted within four-year institutional contexts. Ingram and James’ text therefore serves to fill a critical contextual gap in the higher education literature by drawing together some of the field’s leading scholars and practitioners. Through empirical representation, the voices of Black male community college students are included as well.

Partitioned into three sections, the first seven chapters are devoted to empirical research on Black male community college students. The chapters range in their theoretical and conceptual foci, addressing community college faculty’s willingness to engage, student educational aspiration, and other asset-based frameworks and strategies for understanding Black male student retention and student success. Methodologically, most studies included in Section I use various qualitative approaches (e.g., action research, case study, interpretive phenomenology, and narrative inquiry) to investigate Black male students’ classroom and out-of-class experiences on campus. Two of the studies, however, used quantitative analyses to engage national survey data or mixed-methods approaches to investigate correlates and predictors of Black male student success.

While the research included in this volume articulates familiar themes not necessarily unique to community colleges, the through line of identifying models of institutional responsibility for Black male student success remains at the center. For example, with frequent references to Harpers (2012) National Black Male Achievement Study, researchers routinely frame their findings within the context of what community college administrators, faculty, and policymakers should do in response to the persistent racial inequities evidenced by their data. Furthermore, rather than focus on questions of student deficit, researchers consistently sought out effective strategies and solutions being employed by students and two-year institutions. In part, this included the effectiveness of dedicated support programs for Black male students (i.e., Black male initiatives), faculty-student engagement within and outside of classroom instruction, peer and familial support networks, and community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005). This departure from deficit-framing in the study of Black college students’ experiences generally and Black male undergraduates in particular is a welcome addition to the cannon.

Next, Section Two broadly focuses on the implications of educational policy and recommendations for Black male student engagement and student success. In Chapter Eight specifically, Beatty and McElderly offer recommendations for college, state, and national-level policies aimed at promoting Black male undergraduates beyond survival and toward postsecondary thriving. In particular, and importantly, this chapter takes on the existing structural limitations and systems of power (i.e., racism), proposing ways to transform community colleges from being considered merely points of access to destinations for student success. In Chapter Nine, Fuller and Zamani-Gallaher address the relationship between formerly and currently incarcerated Black men, prison education programs, and postsecondary access vis-à-vis community colleges. Highlighting best practices, this chapter bridges the experiential realities of formerly incarcerated Black men’s participation in prison education programming and recommendations for policy to aid in successful transitions and reentry. The concluding chapter of this section interrogates the restrictive conception of what is considered a Black-serving postsecondary institution, questioning the preeminent position of four-year historically Black colleges and universities and arguing for the inclusion of Black community colleges. The authors provide policy recommendations to strengthen this often forgotten sub-sector and enhance the educational aspirations of Black male students.

The third and final section discusses and evaluates programmatic interventions established to support Black male students at various community colleges. As a reader, it offers a clear and logical end point from the empirical and policy sections preceding it. Each chapter in Section Three offers a brief overview of a community college program or initiative and outlines its accomplishments. Chapter Eleven examines the system-wide approach undertaken by the City University of New York’s Black Male Initiative, which began in 2004 and was designed to provide (a) increased recruitment of racially minoritized students; (b) culturally competent peer mentoring; (c) curricular and co-curricular enhancements; (d) student socio-emotional learning; and (e) institutional commitment to the initiative. In Chapter Twelve, Hodges explores the Shoot for Success program at Volunteer State College, a dedicated intervention designed to improve the retention and graduation of its men’s basketball team, comprised of mostly Black players. The program was organized around high-impact practices affecting Black male student success, such as a culture of high expectations, familial involvement (especially a mother figure), and cultivating processes for resilience. Deemed effective, the success rate of semester-to-semester retention among student athletes increased more than 40% following implementation. In the final chapter, Hobbs explores the Black and Hispanic Male Initiative at Westchester Community College, which served 132 matriculate students in 2016, 73% of whom were in good academic standing at the institution. While the programmatic descriptions and summative evaluations are helpful for understanding Black male student engagement in practice, greater depth in explicitly connecting the initiatives with the themes presented in earlier sections would have greatly benefited the novice or even intermediate reader. Moreover, some concluding framing by the editors, either upfront or in summation, could have synthesized and connected the central idea(s) across and within each section.

Overall, Ingram and Coaxum’s project provides an important portrait of the cognitive and non-cognitive dimensions of Black male student success in community colleges. However, the volume largely fails to wrestle with the gendered dimensions of Black male students. That is to say, while what is offered is certainly additive to what is known about Black men in higher education, the heterogeneity within this subgroup is not interrogated; overlooked are Black men’s experiences as gendered beings (McGuire, Berhanu, Davis, and Harper, 2014). Men, after all, are gendered too, although the book’s title and interchangeable use of the terms “male” and “men” throughout would seem to indicate otherwise. Men are but one socially constructed and embodied way of being along a continuum of infinite modes of gender performance. Black men more specifically are racially gendered and gendered racially. Thus, racism and sexism(s) constantly inform and shape their educational experiences and identity development before, during, and after college. For researchers, such a dimension cannot be overlooked in attempting to understand effective practices for supporting Black men in community colleges. If higher education practitioners and policymakers intend to prescribe and advance interventions, especially those offered in this text, an account of Black men’s relationship to manhood and masculinity must also be seriously considered.


Harper, S. (2012). Black male student success in higher education: A report from the National Black Male College Achievement Study. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania, Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.

McGuire, K. M., Berhanu, J., Davis, C. H. F., III., & Harper, S. R. (2014). In search of progressive Black masculinities: Critical self-reflections on gender identity development among Black undergraduate men. Men & Masculinities, 17(3), 253–277.

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race, Ethnicity, and Education, 8(1), 69–91.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 18, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22979, Date Accessed: 12/2/2021 11:13:24 PM

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